Extremadura in spring

2 – 9 April 2005

Trip Report


John Muddeman

Tim Earl


  • Hundreds of House Martins collecting mud for their nests on the bridge in Monfragüe Natural Park. And seeing two Black Kites working together to snatch one of them.

  • Watching a female Eagle Owl visit her four active chicks in the nest.

  • Displaying Great Bustards, turning themselves into vast white pompoms, were the birds of the week for many. On some occasions views of several were as close as we could get without disturbing them.

  • Seeing Little Bustards properly.

  • Black Storks drifting past us showing their red bills and feet which contrasted with iridescent green plumage. Egyptian Vultures drifting past the same set of rocks.

  • The delightful contrasting habitats, areas and views of Extremadura.

  • Watching the real characters of vultures at the feeding station and when they were waiting for a sheep to die.

  • The many Montagu’s Harriers were fantastic. The male Spectacled Warbler was a smart bird too.

  • Seeing Hawfinches so well. This was a target species for at least one guest.

  • Five Spanish Imperial Eagles.

  • Trujillo, Monfragüe and the delightful walk down the Rio Tozo Valley.

  • The several snakes found during the tour – Worm, Viperine, Montpellier’s and Horseshoe Whip Snake.

  • Our pre-breakfast outing on the last morning: so many birds it was more of an aid-memoir of the trip.

Trip Diary

Saturday 2 April

Arrival, Café David, Embalse Arrocampo and the Finca Santa Marta

It was hardly an auspicious start to a trip… the flight was delayed by a bald tyre which had to be changed, a case was lost in transit – it really is time airlines took this problem seriously – and there was rain in Spain, but we all met at Madrid and set off in fine spirits and with high hopes.

The rain held off at Café David, where our first nesting White Storks were seen, and at the Embalse Arrocampo. Here we were treated to great views of Purple Swamphen (Gallinule) and Purple Herons, Savi’s, Sedge and Cetti’s warblers, slurping Carp and an unfortunate Large-mouthed Bass, hooked by a local angler.

Raptors were plentiful and we admired our first three Black Vultures, Griffon, Black and Red kites, Montagu’s and Marsh harriers, a Booted Eagle and a few Buzzards. Lesser and Common kestrels were also seen and a visiting birder pointed out a distant Black-shouldered Kite as a bonus bird.

The remaining trip to Trujillo and onwards to the Finca Santa Marta was uneventful but we were all happy to see the estate’s old trees with their White Storks’ nests at the end of what had been a tiring day.

Our welcome was warm and friendly with a reception by Henry Elink-Schurman to welcome us (and the birder we had met at the Embalse) at which he gave a history of the finca and urged us to give ideas of how the establishment could be improved.

Sunday 3 April

The finca first, Belén Plain, Rio Almonte and Cabañas del Castillo

Conditions could hardly have been worse for our first full day in Extremadura.,, rain and heavy cloud. A pre-breakfast walk was decidedly damp but we were rewarded with views of Hoopoe, Short-toed Treecreepers, Rock Sparrow and several Azure-winged Magpies. A late Song Thrush was heard singing before we returned to the finca for breakfast.

We set off for the Belén Plain where things got off to a reasonable start. A Southern Grey Shrike, Spanish Sparrows and a pair of Red-legged Partridges were found and after a struggle everyone had good views of two Little Owls.

The day’s great success came soon after when a large flock of Great Bustards was found. Several large ‘plains’ masters’ began displaying as the rain stopped and light got a little better and soon there were no fewer than five males strutting their stuff before us. They took it in turns to reverse their plumage by pulling wings forward and turning into huge white pom-poms.

As if these displays were not enough, a flock of Little Bustards gradually became apparent but it was not until they took off after a passing raptor scared them that we realised there were about 100 in the flock, an amazing sight. Calandra Larks were singing behind us and a lone Stone Curlew was seen at a distance.

We took some time to watch the spectacle unfold before us but eventually decided to move off for coffee and a comfort break. Progress was slow, however, as stops were made for numerous sightings including a Great Spotted Cuckoo, several more Stone Curlews and a few Short-toed Larks.

Our lunch stop was alongside the Rio Almonte in the company of a pair of Short-toed Eagles, lots of Griffons and two Egyptian Vultures. Yhe day was becoming a brilliant success.

Weather conditions remained quite poor except that the drizzle stopped every time we did. We eventually reached the town of Cabañas del Castillo, nestled between two peaks, one of which we searched for Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush, with complete success. The latter were singing from high vantage points and occasionally launching off on spectacular display flights.

Two or three wintering Alpine Accentors reminded us that it was only early April but sounds of summer were eventually heard from the singing Black Wheatear male and the pair were located. The setting was dramatic with lines of ridges stretching away for miles.

It was with great satisfaction that we returned to the finca after a brilliant day enjoying Extremadura’s finest wildlife.

Monday 4 April

Zorita steppes, Embalse de Sierra Brava, Rio Gargaligas and Vegas Altas

The day looked much better but as we set off north a bank of nasty black clouds and rain was seen. We did a complete u-turn and went south, a decision which proved to be excellent.

Great Bustards were located on the Zorita steppes where several were found and two seen in flight, an amazing sight. A few Little Bustards and a pair of Stone Curlews were also found on the plains.

John’s hearing was acute as ever leading him to find the first of several Black-bellied Sandgrouse flocks flying around. A few of these timid birds were watched feeding at some distance. A singing Black-eared Wheatear was on a post a few metres behind us and gave great views,

Moving on to the Embalse de Sierra Brava, we found lots of Black-necked and Great-crested grebes, some of the latter engaged in courtship displays. A Yellow-legged Gull, uncommon for the area, was passing as we arrived.

Bee-eaters were heard and then seen as they flew over us and a distant Roller was seen by some – a good sign as we thought it might be a little early for these most exotic of European birds.

Stopping for a coffee and comfort break in Madrigalejo, a flock of Waxbills and Red Avadavats was found. Fun was had trying to see the identification points while the birds fed in deep grass. The coffee was accompanied by slices of bread with sliced fat or sausage, a local delicacy.

The Rio Gargaligas is crossed by a bridge which took the old road and which the Travelling Naturalists now use as a wildlife observation platform. It was busy as ever – Collared Pratincoles were hawking over a nearby field which had a Northern Wheatear in it, a Little Bittern flew down stream as we walked onto the bridge and a Great Reed-warbler gave a great display singing from the top of reed-mace and a tamarisk bush. Nightingales, Cetti’s and Eurasian Reed-warblers were also in good voice.

A Common Tree-frog in the reeds tempted John down into the river bed where he found a large Moorish Gecko on the bridge under our feet.

Our departure was watched by a Woodchat Shrike as we headed off for a picnic spot. This was found just past the village of Vegas Altas and after a short nap in the increasingly warm sun we started to explore the rice and arable fields in the area.

A colony of Montagu’s Harriers was found, several pairs displaying giving us breathtaking views of this elegant species, and John searched the track in front of us patiently to find the wings and legs of a grasshopper which a male had devoured.

A few small flocks of Black-bellied Sandgrouse were seen, one of which came over our heads looking stunning against a dark cloud behind.

Stars of the afternoon were two rollers which fed for 30 minutes as we watched them, more Great Bustards, a Great Spotted Cuckoo and flocks of Spotless Starlings feeding around the feet of sheep. It was a little like being on the set of a David Attenborough documentary.

We got back to the Finca Santa Marta in time for tea, cakes and call-over. Some folk also took a walk up to the top of the hill behind the finca, finding Champagne and Milky orchids.

Tuesday 5 April

Monfragüe and the Big Five

Seeing all five eagles of the area – Booted, Bonelli’s, Golden, Short-toed and Spanish Imperial – in one week is not easy but we did it in a single day adding a female Eagle Owl and her chicks for good measure. The trip to Monfragüe Natural Park focuses on raptors and today we saw them in bucket-loads.

Our first Spanish Imperial Eagles were at a secret nest site where a third-year bird was sitting on a pylon. It was joined some time later by an adult which flew up and started circling showing the white head and leading edges to the wings which identify the species. It was joined by the juvenile and we watched with mouths open as they wheeled around for some minutes giving wonderful views.

Mist was evaporating from the park’s steep valleys and hill tops as we arrived at the cliffs of Peña Falcon to an amazing sight – hundreds of Griffons were taking off in small parties after being pinned down by the poor weather of the past two day (we had avoided rain and clag in Monfragüe by going south yesterday).

They were not alone. Three or four Black Storks gave us terrific flight views, their bright red beaks and legs contrasting with iridescent green necks and shoulders. A pair of Egyptian Vultures cruised around before perching for a spot of romance, two or three Booted Eagles were seen overhead and vast Black Vultures were passing regularly. The cast was completed by a pair of Choughs which put in several appearances as they gathered nest material.

Below us we watched singing Rock Buntings as Crag Martins and Red-rumped Swallows cruised past. Beautiful male and female Blue Rock-thrushes were also observed.

Pausing at the vast bridge in the middle of the park, we watched hundreds of House Martins gathering mud for their nests and a dozen or so Alpine Swifts which also nest on the structure which looked bigger this year due to the river’s alarmingly low water level – it had been a dry winter in Extremadura.

Tim shouted as a pair of Bonelli’s Eagles passed close overhead giving great flight views which sadly did not last long as the birds cruised off.

Our picnic was eaten overlooking the Tiétar Cliffs where we entertained by several singing Siskins and a host of hungry Hawfinches which were ’scoped as they ate Elm seeds for their lunches.

A stop at the Portilla del Tiétar gave us a distant view of a Spanish Imperial Eagle’s head as it incubated eggs, guarded closely by a number of eager observers. John spotted the mate circling high above the cliffs. We were delighted to have seen four of these rare and impressive eagles.

Our delight was diverted as the spot’s second nest was revealed to contain four Eagle-owl chicks which were active and gave us a great deal of interest over the next hour. Imagine our delight when they were joined by the female which was roosting a short distance away. After checking the brood for a while she returned to her more peaceful quarters and we left for the finca.

Being close to the ‘big five’ we decided to stop at a site where Golden Eagle had been seen earlier in the year and after a 15-minute wait were rewarded by views of a pair, the male of which was displaying, albeit at a distance.

Five species of eagle plus Eagle Owl in a day is a record few can match.

Wednesday 6 April

The Cáceres plains and Santa Marta de Magasca

The road to Cáceres passes one of the most delightful plains in Extremadura and today we explored it with good results. Our first stop was on a corner overlooking the plain as it rolls back to Trujillo.

The songs of at least three Quails were picked up almost immediately but we could see none of the callers despite one sounding almost at our feet. Two Black-bellied Sandgrouse were feeding happily not far away giving us excellent views of this cryptically marked species.

First one and then four more Great Bustards were found among the scattered broom plants before Little Bustards started showing. A few of their rude display calls were heard. A pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos was admired before the birds were joined by a third.

After moving on a short way we found a Common and another group of three Great Spotted cuckoos. All were feeding on hairy caterpillars which they found easily. We too had noticed large numbers on this trip.

Our main quarry along the track we had followed was Pin-tailed Sandgrouse but search as we did none was found so we set off for Magasca and a coffee break, stopping along the way to admire Red-legged Partridges and Rabbits which were plentiful on the shooting estates through which we passed.

The coffee stop was at another of Tim’s ‘favourite’ cafes, each of which appeared to have a doting girlfriend of his behind the bar. Our treat this time was a huge golden tortilla clearly made with delicious free-range eggs.

Fortified, we set off for the Rio Magasca where we settled to eat while John did a spot of stone turning, finding a Viperine Snake for his troubles. Cirl bunting, Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher and a Short-toed Eagle were seen during the break.

Much of the afternoon was spent watching a vast flock of Griffons which were assembling to benefit from a moribund sheep. As the poor animal lay in its final moments the birds assembled to wait until there were more than 70 lined up watching the death-bed. They were unaware of 13 people lined up watching them.

One vulture came in with a strip of plastic or intestine from a previous feast attached to its leg and was immediately set upon by the others. We could not see the outcome in the melee of vast wings around and in the scrum.

A stop to investigate a flock of Black-headed Gulls resulted in the discovery of 15 Great Bustards close to the road. There were no displaying males but we were still pleased to see so many birds close by.

The afternoon’s activities ended with cake and coffee at the finca followed by a go-as-you-please ramble around the orchards.

Thursday 7 April

Medieval Trujillo and the Tozo Valley

Our birds and bargains morning in Trujillo coincided with the start of a three-day market with a medieval theme. Scores of stalls were being up in the square under the statue of Pizzaro on his horse as we climbed the hill to admire Trujillo’s castle and views.

The first was across to a derelict church where to our delight the Bald Ibis found two days ago was picking around the ruins. This was where it had originally located and John explained that In Algeria the birds often feed in ruined buildings.

A Turtle Dove was found in a garden below us and Swallows came in to a muddy puddle for nesting material. They brought small pieces of dry grass with them, presumably to bind the mud blobs together.

After examining the Moorish castle we dropped back into the town for some shopping, pausing to watch an Iberian Wall Lizard which popped into a hole – scuttling straight out again after meeting a fine Horseshoe Whip Snake.

An hour was spent buying souvenirs and cards before we set off to the Rio Tozo, a few minutes drive down the motorway. Here we settled under oaks by the river to eat sandwiches and flick bits of crust for the Mosquito Fish.

Crag Martins, Barn and Red-rumped swallows were nesting under the bridge and a Buzzard had a bust-up with a Black Kite as we ate.

A piece of Spanish cheesecake each was produced by the leaders who had spotted the treat on sale in the market. John found a Worm-snake under a stone while Tim seemed to be examining the inside of his hat.

Refreshed and fortified we all walked down the river in glorious weather stopping to admire a small Montpellier Snake (Tim survived its strike) Otter spraints, Spanish Festoons and Provence Hairstreaks.

Reaching a small reservoir we crept up on it to admire Spoonbills, Shovelers, a duck Pintail, Teal, Gadwall, Common Sandpipers and Greenshanks. A Greylag and several White Wagtails took some teasing out but Spanish Pond Terrapins were abundant.

All agreed that it was a delightful day and we returned to the finca rested but pleased with our finds.

Friday 8 April

Embalse de Arrocampo, Embalse de Valdecañas, feeding raptors and Jaraicejo

Our last full day in the field was spent trying to find one or two species we had not seen. Driving down towards Madrid we started the hunt at an old favourite, the Embalse de Arrocampo where better views of singing Savi’s Warbler were obtained along with a Gull-billed Tern which refused to come close, despite flying across our field of view twice.

We visited three parts of the reservoir failing to find a Squacco Heron but getting good flight views of Little Bittern. Highlight of the morning was undoubtedly watching a displaying male Purple Heron, something neither of the leaders had seen before. The bird was beautifully marked in full breeding plumage and, a part of its complex display, repeatedly raised its head and neck, sky-pointing like an alarmed bittern.

We had lunch in a secluded valley near the Embalse de Valdecañas where a Spanish Imperial Eagle passed high overhead and Russell found three Egyptian Vultures over a nearby ridge. A female Bullfinch was seen, an extremely rare bird in Extremadura, and a few Hawfinches visited us. John was as active as ever finding three species of orchid, including Naked Man, several butterflies and a Large Psammodromas (a lizard).

Vast numbers of vultures were at or loafing around our next major stop near Deleitosa where animals which have died are brought for vultures and other birds to feed upon, It was a fascinating sight to see a cliff-top lined with Griffon and Black Vultures digesting their last meals while the site below teemed with birds feeding. Huge Black Vultures lumbered around on the ground trying to get their share while their Egyptian cousins nipped into the melee grabbing what they could.

We ended the birding at an area of Dehasas scrub where Dartford and Spectacled warblers were found with comparative ease and a little patience. Several pairs of Thekla Larks demonstrated their songs which differ from those of Crested Larks, and even sat on bushes for us – just as they are supposed to do.

The outing ended with celebratory ice-creams on the way home, eaten with scores of Catlle Egrets passing the motorway service station.

That was not the end of the celebrations, however. Our host Henri held a drinks party to bid us farewell and John produced some excellent Spanish sparkling wine to mark the end of his 50th tour.

It was a happy group that retired to bed well pleased with the day and trip.

Saturday 9 April

Cáceres Plain, Monfragüe and back to London

The day dawned bright but extremely cold – just 2°C on the Cáceres plains when we arrived just after sunrise. And what a morning it was. Our main target species was Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and we eventually saw about 25, in flight close enough to see their pin-tails, and through ’scopes on the ground.

But they were just the icing on an extremely rich cake. The outing produced many of the trip’s key species – Great and Little bustards, Little Owl, Great-spotted Cuckoo, calling Quails, Black Vulture on the ground, Roller, lots of Montagu’s Harriers and Black-bellied Sandgrouse too.

The setting was wonderful too: bright sunshine, the wonderful plains of Extremadura and a constant stream of birds.

All good things come to an end, however, and by 9.45 we eating our last breakfast before leaving for Madrid. Travelling days are not usually great for birds but today was an exception.

A late flight meant that we could go back through Monfragüe park with a last look at a contented adult Eagle Owl and its four somnolent chicks, a sitting Spanish Imperial Eagle and its mate cruising past the cliffs at the Portilla del Tiétar.

Our picnic was eaten in the shade of Cork Oaks, recently stripped of bark, to the sound of singing Nightingales [and shouting children? – Ed] and the occasional glimpse of a Spanish Imperial Eagle.

The drive to Madrid was uneventful and we left on the British Airways Gatwick flight on time having said our goodbyes to John at the airport.



GREBES Podicipediformes Podicipedidae

1 Little grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

Seen on five days, max five on the 7th.

2 Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus

Seen on the Embalse de Arrocampo and at the dam on the Rio Tozo.

3 Black-necked grebe Podiceps nigricollis

A total of 15 on the Embalse Sierra Brava on the 4th.

CORMORANTS Pelecaniformes Phalacrocoracidae

4 Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Seen on five days, max 23 on the 5th.

HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae

5 Grey heron Ardea cinerea

Common, seen daily bar one.

6 Purple heron Ardea purpurea

Seen only at the Embasle de Arrocampo but a male displaying on the 8th was fascinating.

7 Little egret Egretta garzetta

Singles seen most days.

8 Cattle egret Bubulcus ibis

Abundant: seen daily, plus a couple of colonies.

9 Little bittern Ixobrychus minutus

Seen only at the Rio Gargligas (one in flight) and the Embalse de Arrocampo (several in flight).

STORKS Ciconiiformes Ciconiidae

10 Black stork Ciconia nigra

Recorded only in Monfragüe Natural Park (six on the 5th, one on the 9th).

11 White stork Ciconia ciconia

Common daily - not counting the pair of the finca chimney and those nesting in the orchard.

IBIS & SPOONBILLS Ciconiiformes Threskiornithidae

12 Bald ibis (Waldrapp) Geronticus eremita

Amazingly, a single un-ringed bird of unknown origin around Trujillo on two occasions.

13 Eurasian spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

Three at the Rio Tozo dam and another three at the Embalse de Arrocampo.

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae

14 Greylag goose Anser anser

Single 'dodgy birds' at the Rio Tozo dam and in the Embalse de Arrocampo.

15 Gadwall Anas strepera

A few pairs most days, lots at the Rio Tozo.

16 Common teal Anas crecca

A few pairs at the Rio Tozo dam.

17 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

Common daily.

18 Northern pintail Anas acuta

A duck at the Rio Tozo dam.

19 Northern shoveler Anas clypeata

A drake and two ducks at the Rio Tozo dam.

20 Common pochard Aythya ferina

A pair flew in to the Embalse Sierra Brava.

HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae

21 Black-shouldered kite Elanus caeruleus

Singles seen at the Embalse de Arrocampo on both visits.

22 Red kite Milvus milvus

A few seen most days.

23 Black kite Milvus migrans

Common daily.

24 Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus

Two seen at Cabanas del Castillo on the 3rd, 10 in Monfragüe Natural Park , and on the 8th three at the Valdecanas dam and five at the raptor feeding station.

25 Eurasian griffon Gyps fulvus

Common daily with huge numbers in Monfragüe Natural Park .

26 Eurasian black (Cinereous) vulture Aegypius monachus

Amazing numbers of this threatened species - up to 30 daily - Extremadura is its major stronghold.

27 Short-toed eagle Circaetus gallicus

Maxim um of three seen on four days.

28 Western marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus

Common; seen most days.

29 Northern harrier Circus cyaneus

Single females seen on the 4th and 9th.

30 Montagu's harrier Circus pygargus

A star bird of the trip. Males and females seen 'ghosting' over the plains daily and in courtship flights commonly.

31 Eurasian buzzard Buteo buteo

A few seen most days.

32 Spanish Imperial eagle Aquila adalberti

Four birds seen in Monfragüe Natural Park on the 5th, one on the 8th and two on the 9th.

33 Golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos

A pair seen displaying distantly on the 5th made up the day's 'big five'.

34 Bonelli's eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus

A pair close overhead in Monfragüe Natural Park .

35 Booted eagle Hieraaetus pennatus

A few seen most days - all pale phase birds.

FALCONS & CARACARAS Falconiformes Falconidae

36 Lesser kestrel Falco naumanni

Common n the plains and a great colony in Trujillo.

37 Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus

A few daily.

38 Peregrine Falco peregrinus

Singles seen on the 3rd and 5th, the latter chasing racing pigeons through Monfragüe Natural Park [that should have made them fly faster – Ed]

PHEASANTS & PARTRIDGES Galliformes Phasianidae

39 Red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa

A few pairs seen most days.

40 Common quail Coturnix coturnix

Up to three pairs heard calling on the Santa Marta de Magasca and Caceres plains on both visits.

RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS Gruiformes Rallidae

41 Water rail Rallus aquaticus

Singles heard and seen at the Embalse de Arrocampo, two seen at the Rio de Gargaligas.

42 Purple gallinule (swamphen) Porphyrio porphyrio

A few seen at both visits to the Embalse de Arrocampo.

43 Common moorhen Gallinula chloropus

A few seen in wet places.

44 Eurasian coot Fulica atra

A few seen at the Embalse de Arrocampo and Embalse Sierra Brava.

BUSTARDS Gruiformes Otididae

45 Great bustard Otis tarda

Another star species with displaying 'white pompom' plains masters, non-breeding males and females on each visit to the plains of Extremadura. Max 54 on the 3rd.

46 Little bustard Tetrax tetrax

Seen on four days with a stunning total of 100 in the Belen Plain on the 3rd.

AVOCETS & STILTS Charadriiformes Recurvirostridae

47 Black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus

A few seen daily - the pond on the way to Trujillo always seemed to hold a pair.

THICK-KNEES Charadriiformes Burhinidae

48 Stone curlew (Eurasian thick-knee) Burhinus oedicnemus

Six in the Belen Plain and two on the Zorita steppes.

COURSERS & PRATINCOLES Charadriiformes Glareolidae

49 Collared pratincole Glareola pratincola

A lovely flock of nine at the Rio Gargaligas.

LAPWINGS & PLOVERS Charadriiformes Charadriidae

50 Northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus

A late wintering bird on the 3rd and a nesting pair on the 6th.

51 Little ringed plover Charadrius dubius

Just two at the Rio Magasca on the 6th.

SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae

52 Common snipe Gallinago gallinago

Singles on the 4th and 8th, five in the Rio Tozo valley.

53 Common greenshank Tringa nebularia

Two at the Rio Tozo dam on the 7th.

54 Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus

Singles on three days.

55 Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

Seen on three days, max five on the 7th.

GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae

56 Yellow-legged gull Larus cachinnans

Singles on the Embalse Sierra Brava and the Valdecanas dam.

57 Black-headed gull Larus ridibundus

A flock of 30 seen on both visits to the Caceres plains.

TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae

58 Gull-billed tern Sterna nilotica

A distant single bird at the Embalse de Arrocampo proved uncooperative.

SANDGROUSE Pterocliformes Pteroclidae

59 Pin-tailed sandgrouse Pterocles alchata

An early start on the 9th produced flight and feeding views of about 25 on the 9th.

60 Black-bellied sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis

Seen on the Zorita steppes on the 4th; Santa Marta de Magasca plains on the 6th (10) and Caceres plains on the 9th.

PIGEONS & DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae

61 Rock dove (feral pigeon) Columba livia

Common daily.

62 Common wood-pigeon Columba palumbus

A few most days.

63 Eurasian turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur

One in Trujillo on the 7th seemed to be courting a Collared Dove.

64 Eurasian collared-dove Streptopelia decaocto

A few daily. One may have scored with a Turtle Dove on the 7th.

CUCKOOS & COUCALS Cuculiformes Cuculidae

65 Great spotted cuckoo Clamator glandarius

Seen on five days, max six on the 6th.

66 Common cuckoo Cuculus canorus

Seen or heard on four days with max four on the 5th.

BARN-OWLS Strigiformes Tytonidae

67 Barn owl Tyto alba

One heard at the Finca Santa Marta on the 4th.

OWLS Strigiformes Strigidae

68 European scops-owl Otus scops

Heard most nights and seen well once at the Finca Santa Marta.

69 Eurasian eagle-owl Bubo bubo

A star bird - an adult and four chicks seen twice in Monfragüe Natural Park .

70 Little owl Athene noctua

Three seen in the rain on the Belen Plain, one on our early morning visit to the Cáceres plains.

SWIFTS Apodiformes Apodidae

71 Alpine swift Tachymarptis melba

Maximum of 15 at the bridge in Monfragüe Natural Park .

72 Common swift Apus apus

A few on passage several days.

73 Pallid swift Apus pallidus

A few most days and a small colony in Trujillo.

KINGFISHERS Coraciiformes Alcedinidae

74 Common kingfisher Alcedo atthis

One at the Rio Magasca.

BEE-EATERS Coraciiformes Meropidae

75 European bee-eater Merops apiaster

Common daily with a max of 90 on the 4th.

ROLLERS Coraciiformes Coraciidae

76 European roller Coracias garrulus

Two near Vegas Altas and one on the final morning on the Caceras palins.

HOOPOES Coraciiformes Upupidae

77 Eurasian hoopoe Upupa epops

Common daily with a max of 10 ontwo days.

WOODPECKERS Piciformes Picidae

78 Great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major

Two on the 3rd, one on the 5th.

79 Green woodpecker Picus viridis

One heard at the Finca Santa Marta on the 4th.

LARKS Passeriformes Alaudidae

80 Calandra lark Melanocorypha calandra

Common and delightful on the plains.

81 Greater short-toed lark Calandrella brachydactyla

Four on the Belen Plain, one on our final morning outing.

82 Crested lark Galerida cristata

Common daily.

83 Thekla lark Galerida theklae

A few in suitable habitat with four pairs on nthe 8th.

84 Wood lark Lullula arborea

Singing and seen daily at the Finca Santa Marta, a few elsewhere.

SWALLOWS Passeriformes Hirundinidae

85 Sand martin Riparia riparia

Seen on only two days.

86 Eurasian crag-martin Hirundo rupestris

Seen in most river valleys daily.

87 Barn swallow Hirundo rustica

Common daily. Migration evident some days.

88 Red-rumped swallow Hirundo daurica

Breeding at the Finca Santa Marta, a few daily elsewhere.

89 House martin Delichon urbica

One of the highlights was seeing hundreds collecting mud for their nests under the bridge in Monfragüe Natural Park - sadly, one was caught by a Black Kite - otherwise common daily.

WAGTAILS & PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae

90 White wagtail Motacilla alba

A few most days.

91 Yellow wagtail Motacilla flava

Five on the 4th were the only ones seen.

92 Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea

Seen n three days with a pair plus two sngles on the 6th.

93 Tree pipit Anthus trivialis

Singles on the 3rd and 7th.

94 Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis

A few most days with a max of 36 on the 6th.

WRENS Passeriformes Troglodytidae

95 Winter wren Troglodytes troglodytes

Breeding at the Finca Santa Marta, a few daily elsewhere.

ACCENTORS Passeriformes Prunellidae

96 Alpine accentor Prunella collaris

One, possibly three, at Cabanas del Castillo on the 3rd.

THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae

97 Blue rock-thrush Monticola solitarius

Seen on five days with six in Monfragüe Natural Park on the 5th.

98 Eurasian blackbird Turdus merula

Common, a few seen daily.

99 Song thrush Turdus philomelos

One heard on the first morning's pre-breakfast walk; one seen in Monfragüe Natural Park on the 9th.

100 Mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus

A few seen in cork oakland on five days.

CISTICOLAS & ALLIES Passeriformes Cisticolidae

101 Zitting cisticola Cisticola juncidis

Common daily; heard more than seen.

OLD WORLD WARBLERS Passeriformes Sylviidae

102 Cetti's warbler Cettia cetti

Common; more heard than seen - but 10 tail-feathers diagnostic.

103 Savi's warbler Locustella luscinioides

Seen and heard at the Embalse de Arrocampo, both occasions.

104 Sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus

Singles seen in wet pla ces on four days.

105 Eurasian reed-warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus

Heard singing at the Embalse de Arrocampo on both visits. A little elusive, however.

106 Great reed-warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus

The bird we saw at the Rio Gargaligas performed like a super trooper, singing from reed-tops for our delight.

107 Willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus

A few through the week.

108 Common chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybeta

A few more than Willow Warbler above, but not huge numbers.

109 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

Seen on only two occasions. Even the birds in the Finca Santa Marta's well seemed absent.

110 Subalpine warbler Sylvia cantillans

Seen and heard on four days.

111 Sardinian warbler Sylvia melanocephala

Common, seen and heard hourly almost.

112 Spectacled warbler Sylvia conspicillata

One singing male at Jaraicejo on the 8th was a delight, female at the Embalse de Arrocampo on the same day.

113 Dartford warbler Sylvia undata

Males seen at Jaraicajo and the raptor feeding station on the 8th.

OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Muscicapidae

114 European robin Erithacus rubecula

Heard singing in cork woods on three occasions - more secretive than British birds.

115 Common nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos

Singing and occasionally seen daily - even around the Finca Santa Marta.

116 Black redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

Common on craggy outcrops.

117 Whinchat Saxicola rubetra

Striking male seen only on one occasion near Vegas Altas.

118 European stonechat Saxicola torquata

Common daily.

119 Black wheatear Oenanthe leucura

A pair found by persistence at Cabañas del Castillo on the 3rd.

120 Northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe

Surprisingly few. - occasional birds on the plains.

121 Black-eared wheatear Oenanthe hispanica

Seen on three occasions, none better than the Zorita plains on the 3rd.

LONG-TAILED TITS Passeriformes Aegithalidae

122 Long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus

Seen on three days - these were the dark Iberian race.

TITMICE Passeriformes Paridae

123 Crested tit Lophophanes cristatus

Just one bird heard on the 5th.

124 Great tit Parus major

Common daily.

125 Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus

Common daily.

CREEPERS Passeriformes Certhiidae

126 Short-toed treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla

Common daily.

SHRIKES Passeriformes Laniidae

127 Southern grey shrike Lanius meridionalis

Surprisingly few; seen on five days.

128 Woodchat shrike Lanius senator

A few daily.

JAYS & CROWS Passeriformes Corvidae

129 Eurasian jay Garrulus glandarius

Seen on only two days, the 3rd and 9th.

130 Azure-winged magpie Cyanopica cyana

Common to abundant daily; many in the grounds of the Finca Santa Marta.

131 Common magpie Pica pica

Common daily.

132 Red-billed chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

Pair at Pena Falcon, Monfragüe Natural Park .

133 Eurasian jackdaw Corvus monedula

Common daily.

134 Common raven Corvus corax

A few seen on three days.

STARLINGS Passeriformes Sturnidae

135 Spotless starling Sturnus unicolor

Abundant daily.

OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae

136 House sparrow Passer domesticus

Abundant daily.

137 Spanish sparrow Passer hispaniolensis

Small flocks common in the fields and nesting in White Stork nests.

138 Eurasian tree sparrow Passer montanus

A few seen on three days.

139 Rock petronia (sparrow) Petronia petronia

A pair on the first morning walk, four on the 8th.

WAXBILLS & ALLIES Passeriformes Estrildidae

140 Common waxbill Estrilda astrild

A mixed flock with Red Avadavats at Madrigalejo on the 4th.

141 Red avadavat Amandava amandava

As with Waxbill above.

FINCHES Passeriformes Fringillidae

142 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

A few daily, mostly in cork oak woodland.

143 European greenfinch Carduelis chloris

Max three seen on two days.

144 Eurasian siskin Carduelis spinus

A flock of four at the lunch stop opposite the Tiétar Cliffs in Monfragüe Natural Park

145 European goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

Abundant daily.

146 Eurasian linnet Carduelis cannabina

Lots aroun with the last of this winter's flocks. Many males in stunning breeding plumage

147 European serin Serinus serinus

Abundant daily.

148 Eurasian bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula

Female seen in a valley near the Embalse de Valdecañas on the 8th.

149 Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes

Another star bird with small flocks seen on several days but nine birds gave excellent views opposite the Tiétar Cliffs in Monfragüe Natural Park.

TRUE BUNTINGS Passeriformes Emberizidae

150 Cirl bunting Emberiza cirlus

One seen and heard at the Rio Magasca on the 6th;

151 Rock bunting Emberiza cia

Two pairs below us at Peña Falcon in Monfragüe Natural Park on the 5th.

152 Corn bunting Emberiza calandra

Abundant daily.


RABBITS & HARES Lagomorpha Leporidae

1 European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus

Common this year - seen in numbers most days.

MICE, RATS & VOLES Rodentia Muridae

2 European water vole Arvicola terrestris

River-side hole (with animal?) in the Tozo Valley.

MOLES Lipotyphla Talpidae

3 Iberian Mole Talpa occidentalis

Mole hills lots of places.

VESPER BATS Chiroptera Vespertilionidae

4 Common pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus

Seen twice, even on a cold evening.

PIGS Artiodactyla Suidae

5 Wild boar (Feral pig) Sus scrofa

Rootings in Monfragüe Natural Park and the Tozo Valley

DEER Artiodactyla Cervidae

6 Red deer (Elk) Cervus elaphus

Two does and a bambi in Monfragüe Natural Park.

Road kills of Western Hedgehog and Red Fox were seen during the trip.


A huge Sharp-ribbed Salamander (Pleurodeles waltl) was shown to us by the little French lad at FSM over breakfast on 6th; a Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita) was under a rock at Sta Marta de Magasca on 6th; a brilliant green Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) was sat in reedmace at the Río Gargáligas on 4th, with another heard calling in the Vegas Altas rice fields on the same date; Iberian Pool Frog (Rana perezi) was commonly heard and occasionally seen in the rivers and pools, with its 'laughing' heard each full day in various places. There were a good number of reptiles: Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauretanica) were at FSM with 1-2 daily from 4th – 6th, plus one at the Río Gargáligas on 4th; 2 Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus) by the Río Magasca on 6th; a Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) by the Río Tozo on 7th; an Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis hispanica) in Trujillo on 7th; an Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida) was seen in Monfragüe on 5th; the remarkable worm-like Amphisbaenian or Worm Snake (Blanus cinereus) was a nice find by the Río Tozo on 7th; the numerous terrapins seen at various sites, especially along the Río Magasca and by the Emb. del Tozo were Spanish Terrapins (Mauremys leprosa); the sadly injured Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) near Torejón el Rubio on 5th was bettered by the aggressive, even if small, one by the Río Tozo on 7th; a lovely Horseshoe Whip Snake (Coluber hippocrepis) was hunting lizards on the walls in Trujillo on 7th; Viperine Snakes (Natrix maura) were well represented with 3 by the Río Magasca on 6th and 2 by the Río Tozo on 7th.


Several Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) were in the Emb. de Arrocampo on 2nd and 8th; a fine Large-mouthed Bass (Micropterus salmoides) was seen being fished out of the Emb. de Arrocampo on 2nd; 10+ Mosquito Fish (Gambusia affinis) were in the Río Tozo on 7th.


Scarce swallowtail
One beauty in Monfragüe on 5th.

Spanish festoon One in Monfragüe on 5th and 4-5 by the Río Tozo on 7th.

Large white A few Trujillo on 5th.

Small white At least two Vegas Altas on 4th, a few in Monfragüe on 5th and 1 by the Río Tozo on 7th.

Western dappled white One to a few daily from 4th - 7th.

Orange-tip Several Valdecañas Dam on 8th.

Clouded yellow Several Vegas Altas on 4th and singles Río Magasca on 6th and Río Tozo on 7th.

Brimstone A single male Emb. de Arrocampo on 2nd.

Cleopatra Two males Monfragüe on 5th, a pair Río Magasca on 6th and several Valdecañas Dam on 7th.

Provence hairstreak One by the Río Tozo on 7th.

Small copper Several in Monfragüe on 5th and by the Río Tozo on 7th and 1 Jaraicejo on 8th.

Holly blue One Monfragüe on 5th and several Valdecañas Dam on 8th.

[Spanish] brown argus One Vegas Altas on 4th, singles by the Río Magasca and in the Llanos de Cáceres on 6th and a few by the Río Tozo on 7th.

Common blue One Valdecañas dam area on 8th.

Nettle-tree butterfly Three or four in the Valdecañas dam area on 8th.

Large tortoiseshell One Monfragüe on 5th, one FSM on 6th and 1+ in the Valdecañas dam area on 8th.

Peacock One Monfragüe on 5th and singles by the Río Magasca and in the Llanos de Cáceres on 6th.

Red admiral One – two seen on 5 days at various sites.

Small heath Several Río Magasca and Llanos de Cáceres on 6th, plenty by the Río Tozo on 7th and 1+ Jaraicejo area on 8th.

[Southern] Speckled wood One by the Río Magasca on 6th.

Mallow skipper Two Vegas Altas on 4th.


Included stunning Giant Peacock Moths (Saturnia pyri) at FSM on 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 8th, with 3 on 7th, plus Yellow Belles (Semiaspilates ochrearia) at FSM on 5th and en route on 8th. Odonata included a few Lesser Emperor Dragonfly (Anax parthenope) at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 8th, a Vagrant Emperor (Hemianax ephippiger) at the Emb. del Tozo on 7th, several Iberian Blue-tailed Damselflies (Ischnura graellsii) at the Emb. de Arrocampo on 7th and a couple of Common Winter Damselflies (Sympecma fusca) at the Emb. del Tozo on 7th. Other insects included singing Mole Cricket (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa) at FSM on 4th, Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris) heard singing at a few sites on a couple of days, the remains of the large Egyptian Grasshopper (Anacridium aegyptium) eaten by a Montagu’s Harrier near Vegas Altas on 4th and one intact one en route on 8th, the enormous Pond Skaters (Aquarius sp.) on the Río Magasca on 6th, several Violet Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa violacea) at FSM on 7th, the large Dung Beetle (Scarabaeus semipunctatus) at Monfragüe on 5th, numerous Rhinoceros Beetles (Copris lunaris) at FSM from 3rd – 8th, a few Oil Beetles (Meloe sp.) on 4th , 6th and 7th, 3 Churchyard Beetles (Blaps mucronata) at Sta Marta de Magasca on 6th, several Pollen Beetles at Vegas Altas on 4th. The only other invertebrate was several examples of the large, nasty-looking centipede (Scolopendra cingulatus) on 4th, 6th and 8th.

© The Travelling Naturalist 2005